Film Review: Tell it to the Bees
By Lauren Bray
Set in rural post-WWII Scotland, "Tell it to the Bees" depicts a forbidden love story and rebirth between two women.
Directed by Annabel Jankel, this period drama touches on the themes of isolation, danger, homophobia, and identity while love can liberate and rescue you. The screenplay was adapted from Fiona Shaw's novel by the same name.
The film starts with Lydia (Holliday Grainger) struggling to raise her young son Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) on her own after her husband leaves her for another woman. She works a low-income factory job and is unable to pay their rent, essentially isolated in her husband's hometown without family or friends, while Charlie is getting bullied at school. While getting injured after "scrapping" with other boys at school, Charlie is sent to see Dr. Jean Markham (Academy Award winner Anna Paquin) who recently returned to her hometown after her father's death and found people were not too keen on her taking over the doctor position.
Dr. Markham bonds with Charlie and invites him to visit the honeybee colonies at her home. She teaches him how to care for the bees and describes how she used to tell them her secrets when she was young, a practice that Charlie adopts. Lydia too strikes up a friendship with Dr. Markham which intensifies after the doctor invites Lydia and Charlie to live with her after their eviction, which causes rumors throughout town. Lydia and Dr. Markham's relationship intensifies causing Charlie's father to reappear and make their lives difficult.
The film delicately weaves metaphors through the bees in all of their CGI splendor. The dreary yet stunningly green and lush Scottish landscape also provides a nice comparison to the ups and downs of the characters. Brilliantly acted, the film draws in the viewer to the subtle nuances of desire, emotional connection, and sexual tension. Ultimately the film ends differently than the novel, yet both have a positive outcome.
The film will be shown again during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Wednesday, February 6 at 2:20 p.m. Learn more about this film and purchasing tickets at sbiff.org.